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Criticism Over Media Coverage Of Juvenile Immigration Policy Under Trump Vs. Obama

Images of children, infants in juvenile detention centers for illegal aliens taken during a media tour four years ago in Brownsville, Texas and Nogales, Arizona are a major part of the latest criticism of the national mainstream media and its coverage of President Trump. (Pool)

Images of children, infants in juvenile detention centers for illegal aliens taken during a media tour four years ago in Brownsville, Texas and Nogales, Arizona are a major part of the latest criticism of the national mainstream media and its coverage of President Trump.

While Democrats and liberal media commentators were joined by moderate Republicans in blasting Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy to detain everyone caught trying to enter the country illegally, many were asking why the outrage over the policy is only happening now.

To many critics and commentators, it has been another instance where the national media has seemingly only started to aggressively challenge the White House now that Trump is the current occupant of the West Wing.

Just weeks after Jon Favreau, former senior aide and speechwriter to President Barack Obama, tweeted out a photo of two young children sleeping on mats on a floor in a holding cage to criticize Trump's immigration policies. Several Democratic elected officials and national mainstream media outlets followed suit only to be quickly informed that the image was actually taken during the Obama Administration's term in 2014.

After being called out, Favreau and several others deleted their tweets, which only raised more questions from commentators who wanted to know why the image and what it represents was outrageous and horrifying under Trump, but not under Obama.

While most did not respond to criticism, Favreau did admit that the photo was from 2014, and then wrote that in 2014, "the government's challenge was reconnecting unaccompanied minors who showed up at the border with family or a safe sponsor. Today, in 2018, the government is CREATING unaccompanied minors by tearing them away from family at the border."

However, more pictures from that same facility were taken during a media tour at the time and were not shown by most national mainstream media outlets. Some media coverage the facilities downplayed the conditions or used them as examples of the increasing struggle to handle rising illegal immigration.

The images were taken by two Reuters photographers serving as a pool camera during media tours of the privately run facilities, show children crammed tightly together, sleeping on thin plastic maps on the floor, covering themselves with foil blankets.

On June 18, 2014, USA Today characterized the facility in Nogales as a "Warehouse of Humanity", and published a story which seemed to paint the detention center as a dull but semi-pleasant scene. Other media coverage reported on the facilities as a "struggle" for federal immigration authorities to handle the large influx of illegal immigrants that started coming into the U.S.

The Los Angeles Times was one of few news media outlets that reported that these facilities were "overcrowded" and "unsanitary".

Four years later (and nearly to the day of that media tour in 2014), the coverage of the same facilities has been far different. A New York Times article published exactly one week ago reported that the privately-run centers, "have become big business in South Texas" despite the fact that most have been in operation since 2007 and 2008.

The NYT story quotes a Texas Democratic state senator's angry statement about temporary tent housing being set up in another Texas town as, "what totalitarians in the Middle East and elsewhere do."

It also reported on Democratic U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon being turned away from the Brownsville facility after he showed up unannounced. Merkley's visit received widespread national news coverage which included soundbites from angry Democratic lawmakers demanding changes (many Republicans even joined in the calls for changes), but very few showed any photos from the 2014 media tour of the Brownsville facility.

While the facilities are mostly unchanged since Trump became president, the coverage and push for national outrage over them seems to have completely flipped.

The facilities are not the only noticeable story surrounding media coverage of how the federal government has handled juvenile illegal aliens.

As news of a lawsuit alleging abuse of a minor at a Virginia detention center came out early Thursday, liberal commentators were quick to add the suit to the outrage against Trump, even though the allegations mostly occurred in 2016, before Trump was elected and sworn into office.

Conservatives and media critics are not the only ones to take note of the Obama Administration's role in detaining juvenile illegals.

On June 18, exactly four years after USA Today downplayed the state of the facilities, Immigration Attorney R. Andrew Free told of a brief encounter he had with then President Obama at a 2015 event showcasing Obama's DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.

On Twitter, Free detailed the encounter and what it meant for U.S. immigration policy regarding juveniles and families.

Free says that as Obama shook hands at the end of the DACA event, Free thanked him for DACA, but he also urged Obama to close the for-profit detention centers for juvenile illegal immigrants. He says he told the president that it would "become a stain on his legacy".

Free says not only did Obama not tell him that his administration was working on closing the centers, he defended their existence and essentially called the detention of illegal immigrant children and mothers as a deterrent.

Free notes that just days after his encounter with Obama, a federal judge ruled against the policy.

This information is surprising to many considering that it has been widely reported that Trump finds himself under attack for the same policies, allegedly "of his own making", as at least two different media analysis pieces stated.

President Obama did not leave his presidency completely free of the scandal of the facilities. It was widely reported that his administration deported more illegal aliens than any other president, becoming known as the "Deporter-In-Chief", a moniker directly given to him by the leader of one of the United States' largest Latino Advocacy groups at a gala in March of 2014.

While he promoted the DACA program, the president and his immigration officials often found cold audience members or protesters who confronted them about the treatment of children and mothers who entered the country illegally.

As Obama's presidency winded down, the issue shadowed him, but aside from mentions on ABC and NBC, most of the critical media coverage came from more liberal and less mainstream outlets.

Critics of the national mainstream media and its current coverage of the family separation issue note that Obama did not get a pass on the juvenile facilities and abuses that are now starting to be reported, but they do say that the contrast in how Trump has been covered by the national media versus the way Obama was covered is very clear.


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